What is the History of Kombucha?

Kombucha is a tea beverage made by fermenting tea generally, black tea or sometimes green, and sugar with a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria (SCOBY) for a number of days.

A SCOBY is a cellulose-based biofilm that results in the natural fermenting process of making kombucha. It forms together when you ferment the lactic acid bacteria (LAB), acetic acid bacteria (AAB), and yeast together.

Fundamentally, it is made of bacteria and yeast. It is essential to making kombucha because the SCOBY pellicle is the vessel in which the bacteria and yeast found in the kombucha can live.

Kombucha has been consumed since 220 BC. The exact origins of Kombucha are not known, although China is likely to be the place of origin. It may have been originated as recent as 200 years ago or as long as 2000 years ago. During the period of Tsin Dynasty in Manchuria, China, the tea was known for its suspected magical properties.

The Korean peninsula is in the far eastern regions of China, where the Shang Dynasty ruled the yellow river valley for centuries (about 200 BCE-400 CE). Since this is where this tea plant was cultivated for the first time. Therefore, where the kombucha have been noticed and nurtured, it is likely both tea and fungus has made their way to the peninsula as part of trade missions.

During the period of Kofun in Japan (about 250–538 CE), the Japanese rulers began to establish the trading relationship with the China and Korea. Thus, the trade good began flowing in both directions and this tea plant would have been the part of those shipments. At that time, the Japanese already had a healthy drink called Kombu-cha, which is made out of dried powder kelp (Kombu), mixed with green tea (Cha) and hot water. The histories also mention that a Korean doctor named Komu visits the Emperor Inkyo of Japan at the beginning of the 5th century CE; he brought the Lingzhi mushroom with him and prepared a tea from this mushroom to cure the Emperor’s digestive tract problem.

At the end of the 9th century in Japan, Buddhist monk Eisai brought green plants to cultivate in Japan. 

As trade routes extended beyond the Far East, Kombucha travelled to Russia and Eastern Europe. The tea became very popular in Russia and was consumed in east Russia at least as early as 1900, for the treatment for metabolic diseases, haemorrhoids, and rheumatism.

During World War II, Kombucha consumption extended beyond Russia, to Western Europe and North Africa. Its consumption increased in the United State during the early 21st century.

With the rising popularity in the developing countries in the early 21st century, kombucha sale increased after it was marketed as an alternative to beer and other alcoholic drinks in the pubs, bars and restaurants. European uses for the tea focused on the supposed detoxifying effects on the blood and digestive system.

Kombucha is reportedly the fastest growing product in the functional beverage market and one of the most popular low-alcoholic fermented beverages in the world.

Kombucha’s popularity as a functional food is driven by its purported health benefits, which include “multiple functional properties such as anti-inflammatory potential and antioxidant activity,” and “the reduction of cholesterol levels and blood pressure, reduction of cancer propagation, the improvement of the liver, the immune system, and gastrointestinal functions.”

And the rest is, as they say, history.

Want to take advantage of the many health benefits of kombucha? Order your very own Karl Kombucha Home Brewing Kit and see how drinking kombucha can naturally empower your body to perform better.

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